Companies deploying enterprise video plans increasingly have to consider how the technology will impact their Wi-Fi network. In an era when mobile devices are becoming more popular, businesses face the challenge of equipping the wireless network to support data throughput to smartphones and tablets. According to a recent TechTarget report, this is creating a dynamic in which many organizations are left questioning whether they should stick with the IEEE 802.11n Wi-Fi specification or wait to make a major upgrade until the 802.11ac standard is more readily accessible.
Differentiating between 802.11n and 802.11ac
The simplest distinction between the two Wi-Fi standards is that 802.11ac provides much more bandwidth for companies. The standard can support gigabit Wi-Fi, which represents a major achievement. However, the 802.11n standard is easily able to meet most current needs for businesses, making the choice of network setups a challenging one, the report explained.
Industry expert Robert Fenstermacher told the news source that the debate between 8802.11n and 802.11ac actually goes well beyond the bandwidth. He explained that with 802.11n, organizations can establish 40 MHz radio channels, enabling four distinct streams to reach speeds of 600 Mbps. With advanced APs in place, these separate channels can actually be bonded to improve performance.
The 802.11ac standard adds even more bandwidth with a subsequent increase in distinct channels as well, creating an ideal situation for video. Fenstermacher told TechTarget that the 802.11ac standard allows for 160 MHz channels. With APs in place, organizations can establish eight channels running at 600 Mbps.
This difference in throughput is important, but may not be the deciding factor between 802.11n and 802.11ac.
"But there are other factors to take into consideration," Fenstermacher told the news source. "The most obvious one is that this is going to be client dependent, so you would need to have 802.11ac-capable smartphones and tablets and laptops in order to support that higher throughput. It's not like you put in an 802.11ac AP and all of a sudden all your problems are solved."
Making the right choice
In the end, the decision about which type of Wi-Fi to choose may be as much about the rest of the network as it is about the wireless technology. In most cases, the LAN and WAN systems act as a backhaul for the wireless network within a corporate network. Because of this, a high-bandwidth Wi-Fi solution may be limited by data that does not travel through the wired network effectively.
When considering Wi-Fi-related network decisions, it is often best to first make sure the core network is optimized for video, perhaps through a video-specific solution, before evaluating the type of wireless connection that is needed. Once the broad network performance capability has been evaluated, it can be much easier to figure out precisely what can work within the Wi-Fi. Generally, it is best to make the final decision based on a combination of these technical considerations and the operational needs of employees.